The Marine Department – Shipping Master

By 1918 the war was drawing to a close and the Daniel family moved back to Auckland where Charles Daniel joined the Marine Dept. from Light Service as Shipping Master under Captain Atwood.

This brief period must have been terminated about the time I was 7 years old because our next move was to St Albans Avenue in and off Dominion Road, where in due course I was indoctrinated to the school system. This was the Mangawhau School which in those days was really in the back blocks. All that I can recall is that, as a hefty kid of 7 forced to start off in the primers amongst younger children, I did manage to break the stool assigned to me being far too large for such a small frail thing intended for one of younger years than mine.

Uncle George Sorensen lived not far from us, I remember going there one Sunday and viewing with some awe his second wife, who at that stage had produced an heir much to the delight of Uncle George, the efforts of his loins by his first wife by this time being about my own age, namely Gordon and Eric, the latter now passed on at this date along with his illustrious father who quit this orb at 92, taking with him such a wealth of heritage as it is never likely to be seen in this day and age again. He died with his third wife surviving him.

My most vivid recollection of our sojourn there was my father hurling a plate of mincemeat at my mother, and I gather insulting him with such mean fare. Mum missed most of it and the remainder clung to a net curtain over the dresser, disgorging itself in sticky runs down the same curtain. I don’t know whether father was on liquor or in desperation indicating that mince-meat was fit only for dogs and not for heads of households. Financial problems were just as prevalent in those days as in any other time when a young healthy family had to be maintained on miserable wages.

By now the old man had become Shipping Master for the Port of Auckland and I gather very popular both with the seamen and the companies who employed the said labour. It was in this position as the person involved in the “signing on or signing off” of the various members of the seamen’s union or fraternity that he acquired the soubriquet of Shanghai Daniel. “Shanghai” was a term applied in sailing ship days of obtaining crew for ships who were known also as “runners”.

In many instances they would entice sailors ashore, endeavour through their boarding-house, hotel or brothel to drug their drink, and in such a state get them aboard a ship outward bound to God knows where in some lousy forecastle. There are some parts in odd places of the world where this practice continues. However, one or two instances he recounted to the writer bear out the implications of the name. He had a confidant in a chap (a Scot) Robby Robertson who was a cab driver who assisted Captain Daniel to round-up a crew who, having signed on, failed to show up at sailing time, so he would collect them on these occasions in the cab, maybe from some hotel or brothel or else-where’s, and deliver them to the ship. He became well-known and highly respected by all who were associated with the maritime scene around the Auckland area.

Our next move was to 87 Eden Terrace, a two-storey barn of a place which imposed its frontage right on the main street. Dad’s situation must have improved by this time as we had a telephone in the house plus a piano. The telephone was the means of calling him at all kinds of hours to locate or assemble by force or cajolery the recalcitrant members of some ship held up by their non-appearance at sailing time. Through these efforts he became known as `Shanghai Daniel’.


The Daniel Family – Barney, May, Charles, Ida and Jimmy – Eden Terrace.


My sojourn in this house was a series of accidents first set off by the Great ‘Flu Epidemic of 1919. The hearses of the undertakers rattled by our house non-stop for weeks on end and we had one death in the house, a May Bryers from Hokianga came to stay with us, duly contracted the disease and being partly Maori easily succumbed to the scourge. We children were not affected and were too young to appreciate the gravity of the situation as deaths occurred with such rapidity that many people were buried in blankets only as there was neither the time nor labour to make the necessary coffins, let alone hold any sort of service over their remains.

The Sailors’ Home became a hospital as did many other makeshift premises, the Hospital of course was overflowing and this was an anxious and trying time for many. I am not too sure of the sequence of accidents that befell me about this time, so it is difficult to decide did I break my arm before I got pneumonia or was I run over? This latter did occur on the 29th September 1919, as the attached cutting will show, so I presume this was the first of the incidents of which later I was prone to or became heir to.

Despite the hard times always prevalent for the workers of those days on low wages, we seemed to feed well enough and many are the feeds of oranges, bananas, pineapple and sundry odd fruit from the Island Steamers that my father brought home, and the speck stuff was sorted out and used and the ripe oranges eaten over our bath, wherein were deposited the pips and peel. I never concerned myself after these relapses as to who cleaned up the mess in that bath, so it had other uses than merely bathing.

My old man, big by any standard and powerful with it, had reached about 18 stone in weight and decided that some of this had to come off. Walking and swimming were to be the means by which this, hopefully, was to be achieved, but as this was akin to a training bout the end results proved negligible. Each morning by 6 o’clock he would disappear to the Tepid Baths walking I should say about 3 miles, swimming for an hour, then proceed to his job by 8am with only a cup of tea to sustain him until lunch, also light, then walk home at the end of his day’s work. Saturdays and Sundays were therefore looked forward to by we 3 as all hands, accompanied by the Captain, took off for the Baths. A Mr Champion was custodian at the time and by virtue of his being a friend of the Captain, my kid sister May was allowed into the male section of the Baths with us where, under the expert tuition of our father, we very soon became proficient water rats having a glorious hour or so before the Baths officially opened for business at 8 o’clock.

Tepid Baths 1921

Tepid Baths 1920 – Sir George Grey Special Collections.


Mr Champion was responsible for training many children who later made good at the sport, so I think there was a sort of `laisser-faire’ attitude adopted whilst the water in the Baths (salt) was generally prepared from about 6am to opening time We were able to indulge what talent we possessed to the fullest degree, including a considerable amount of skylarking and being towed along on the powerful back of the Captain, warming ourselves at the outlet of the warm water into the Baths proper, followed by a shower which I can’t remember whether it was hot or cold.

Saturday morning was a delight to us as we would then proceed to Mennies Biscuit Factory in Albert Street in charge of the Captain armed with one of mother’s clean pillow-slips, and for the princely sum of 6d were able to select the best quality broken biscuits at our leisure. We naturally became very selective with a bit of practice, and when this delightful chore was over were despatched homewards whilst father returned to his duties at the Shipping Office, and with a pillowcase of biscuits to examine for the choicest pieces there was no need for mother to prepare any breakfast, by the time of our arrival homeward we were replete.

His work as Shipping Master involved him in some pretty hard cases at times and he had been known to arrive at a delayed ship’s berth with three drunken and recalcitranted seamen in tow, consequently he commanded some respect backed-up with the ability to impose his will by physical means if necessary. It was after I had arrived home a few times, blood streaming from my nose after some encounter with some other boy, that he decided it was time his eldest was taught to reverse the process and in due course a set of boxing gloves arrived at our house, and the noble art became the big deal. I certainly got less bloody noses from then on, but I still got the occasional licking from a kid better than myself.

Despite all these gory happenings our education in art and nature were not neglected and the old man was an able teacher as we visited the Art Gallery in Wellesley Street regularly. The Dominion Museum, which used to be in the North End of Princess Street, all of the parks and Botanical Gardens in turn, and anything that was free of a Sunday.

As children of course, we were not aware of this nor its implications, but recession was abroad in the land at that time. Neither was our religious education allowed to be neglected so Sunday School was fitted in, and togged-up in our best clothes and boots we repaired forth to the Holy Sepulchre Church in Grafton Road, our sure attendance there being a small card with some biblical tripe on it as an indication that we had not played the wag, presented to our parents when we arrived back home.

Over time he disclosed some of the incidents he was to contend with whilst shipping master, and one that was typical in his approach to this problem dealt with dispatch, which he related to the writer. It occurred during his lunch break at the lower corner of Hobson Street and Custom Street West where he happened to be on returning to the shipping office. He was accosted by a man somewhat the worse from liquor, a seaman who had a grievance of some sort with the Captain.

This character was abusive and had the Captain backed-up against a wall of the Custom’s building, at the same time poking his finger in the direction of the Captain’s face. To ease himself of this public display he seized the assailant in his large hand with a grip on the man’s face and shoved him backwards. He was just drunk enough to stagger backwards without falling over, and then finished flat on his back in front of a tram that was heading west on Custom Street. He said he had better disappear rather than create another problem, and apparently a wiser silly drunken man realized he had brought it upon himself.

By this time he was experiencing some disquiet with the maritime scene and the atmosphere that prevailed in the industry. Another factor was the area where we lived at that time, with traffic of which the writer has recorded elsewhere in being in conflict with, like getting run over by a motor ambulance. Somehow he decided to get the family out of the city to a better safer environment, and Panmure was the place he chose. Elsewhere I have written about this new move, the wisdom of which coincided with his desire to opt out of the shipping business, and he applied for and joined the Fisheries Branch of the Marine Dept. as an inspector.